An Airman's Story: Captain Eddie Rickenbacker - WWI, WWII - Veteran

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Edward Rickenbacker was born on October 8, 1890, in Columbus, Ohio.  Forced to leave school early after his father's death in order to help support his family, Captain Rickenbacker continued to learn and study on his own and enrolled in many correspondence courses.

Fascinated by cars (and machinery in general) he began working at the Columbus Buggy Company as a salesman. As a hobby, he golfed and raced cars, competing in the Indianapolis 500 four times prior to the beginning of WWI and set a world speed record in 1914 at Daytona.

Eager to support the war, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917.  Wanting to fly, his lack of formal education, as well as his age, barred him from flight school.  He was assigned to work as a chauffeur and mechanic.  Undaunted, Captain Rickenbacker learned to fly on his own and was finally awarded his wings.  He had a stellar career, earning the 'Ace' designation with 26 victories and more than 300 combat flight hours.  Earning him a Congressional Medal of Honor and seven Distinguished Service Crosses.

After the war, he founded the Rickenbacker automobile company, which fell during the depression.  He also founded Eastern Airlines, which provided his bread and butter.  For a short time, he owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Not one to be idle, he also scripted the comic strip "Ace Drummond" from 1935-1940.

In 1941, Captain Eddie, as he was often known, was involved in a near-fatal airline crash, that took almost a year to recover from, and left him with a slight limp.

Always a supporter of America, he provided civilian aid during WWII, and, during a tour of bases in the Pacific, was involved in another plane crash that left him and the rest of the crew adrift in the ocean for 24 days. Earning him the Medal of Merit.  This story is used by Alcoholics Anonymous for inspiration.

He resigned as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Eastern Airlines in on December 31, 1963, and spent the remaining years touring and traveling with his wife.  He was a popular speaker.

Captain Rickenbacker died while in Zurich, Switzerland on July 23, 1973.


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